February 5, 2014
Due to major changes in many state laws in the past year, same-sex marriage is now legal in 17 states - and in August of last year, the IRS made the decision to treat same sex couples legally married in any state as married for the purpose of filing federal tax returns. This means that gay and lesbian couples married in these states can legally file their income tax returns under "Married, Filing Jointly" or "Married, Filing Separately." Their married status, furthermore, is retained even if the couple has moved to another state that does not recognize same-sex unions. It is even possible for couple to file amended joint tax returns for the years between 2010 and 2012, also.
"Because the legality of same-sex marriage - and domestic partnership - varies from state to state, state and federal tax filing can become complex undertakings." explained Paul Stanley of eTax.com. Here is an explanation of variations in living situations, and what each means for partners' filing statuses:
If a same sex couple was legally married in a state that recognizes the marriage, and also lives in a same-sex-marriage state, they must file as married for both federal and state taxes.
If a couple was married in a state that recognizes the legality of the marriage, but lives in a state in which same sex marriage is not legal, they must file as married for federal tax purposes, but single for state taxes.
If a state recognizes domestic partnerships, a same-sex couple in such a legal partnership must file as single for federal tax purposes, but married for state taxes.
Committed partners living in states that do not recognize either same sex marriage or domestic partnerships must file as single for both federal and state taxes.
With so many variables affecting tax liability for married couples, it may be prudent for same-sex couples filing together to check with a tax professional with expertise in the same-sex marriage and/or domestic partnership tax considerations in their state.